Woman holding hand to head in pain

In the US, tinnitus affects 20 percent of the total population, and hearing loss occurs in 90 percent of those cases.

With such a substantial connection between hearing loss and tinnitus, you would assume that people would be more likely to seek out treatment for one or both conditions.

But believe it or not we find the opposite. Of those who avoid treatment for hearing loss, 39 percent (9 million people) do so because they believe nothing can be done about their tinnitus.

That’s 9 million people that are suffering unnecessarily when a treatment program exists that could both improve hearing and relieve tinnitus at the same time.

That treatment method is the professional fitting of hearing aids.

In a recent survey of hearing health specialists, it was found that 60 percent of patients reported some level of tinnitus relief when wearing hearing aids, while 22 percent reported considerable relief.

Based on these percentages, if the 9 million who have given up on tinnitus used hearing aids, 5.4 million would realize some extent of alleviation and about 2 million would achieve substantial relief.

But how do hearing aids actually mitigate the intensity of tinnitus?

The scientific consensus is that hearing loss brings about reduced sound stimulation reaching the brain. In response, the brain undergoes maladaptive neurological changes that generate the perception of sound when no exterior sound source is present.

It’s this subjective feature that renders tinnitus so difficult to diagnose and treat, and why medications or surgical procedures normally have little effect. There’s simply no physical tissue to repair or chemistry to alter.

But there is a way to reach the perception of sound, a way to help the brain adjust or reverse its reaction to diminished sound stimulation.

With the help of hearing aids, amplified sound can help readjust the brain to healthy levels of sound stimulation and simultaneously provide a masking effect for the sounds of tinnitus.

For people with hearing loss, tinnitus is more disturbing because the tinnitus is louder relative to the volume of exterior sound. By turning up the volume on external sound, tinnitus can fade into the background.

In addition, some hearing aids can deliver sound therapy directly to the user, which can be personalized for each patient.

Hearing aids, combined with sound and behavioral therapy, are at present the best tinnitus treatment options available. The majority of patients describe some level of relief and many patients report significant relief.

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